Blog   Tagged ‘networking’

Connecting: one of the keys to centered leadership

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UMB’s Dana Abraham spoke to the Saint Louis University Cook School of Business this week. Here is an excerpt from her talk.


The leadership model is advancing, and evolving into a better place than ever before.

What began as a specific push for progress among women in leadership roles spurred the study1 that formed “Centered Leadership” – a model that has served successful professionals around the globe. Common themes appeared in this study, and the data was later validated by a survey of 2,500 executives.

They called the resulting model centered leadership. It’s about having a well of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength that drives personal achievement, and in turn inspires others to follow.

One of the elements to this model is connecting.

Connecting: Identify who can help you grow, build stronger relationships and increase your sense of belonging.

People with strong networks and good mentors enjoy more promotions, higher pay and greater career satisfaction.

One thing that differentiates a leader from a manager is the leader’s ability to figure out where to go to get things done. In order to get things done, you need three types of essential networks.

1)     Work Resource – The people in this network assist you with projects and give you access to information and ideas.

2)     Personal Support: These are your personal counselors, your friends. They provide a safe place to vent.

3)     Career Support: These include your mentors, coaches and sponsors.

HOW to network –

  • First of all, don’t start with an actual networking event. Instead, work on meaningful encounters with others. For example, getting to know people by working with them on a committee or taking part in a shared interest.
  • Remember to give, not just take. Effective networks are earned. There is a need for reciprocity when people receive—they feel obligated to reciprocate. Focus on the value you add to others and what you bring to these relationships. Do you have expertise, a point of view from another generation, information, referrals?
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When I first joined UMB, I tried to connect with our largest and most profitable commercial banking clients. I needed to prove myself to these business partners. I laid out my service model, but didn’t have any referrals. It wasn’t until I first referred business to them that they saw the value I could bring. Today, commercial bankers are my leading sources of new business.

It’s also important to take a long-term approach. Build relationships before you need them so you can save time in the future.

What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

Mentorship is important to our personal development, but sponsorship will help us break through. A sponsor is willing to go beyond the role of mentor to stick out his/her own neck to create an opportunity for a protégée.

A mentor dispenses wisdom, while a sponsor gets involved. Sponsors believe in you, but mentors don’t always go that far.

I have been fortunate to have sponsors. My direct supervisor has put my name into the hat several times and has an interest in my personal development. I also have peers from other lines of business who I would view as sponsors—people who would recommend me for a project or development opportunity.

Networks are about reaching out, showing interest in another person, and offering help – a true key to professional growth. Authenticity matters, so develop an approach that fits your personality and style.


1 – A study was launched by McKinsey and Company to determine what drives and sustains successful female leaders – this was done to help younger women navigate the paths to leadership to learn how organizations could get the best out of this group of talented associates. This work was lead and later published by Joanna Barsh, Suzie Cranston and Geoffery Lewis. They interviewed 85 successful women from across the globe and in diverse fields.

Dana Abraham is president of the Personal Banking Division and is responsible for the delivery of comprehensive financial services. Her areas of focus include Wealth Planning, Private Banking, Personal Trust, Investment Management and Insurance. She joined UMB in 2005 and has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Abraham earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in both accounting and economics from the University of Louisiana. She is a graduate of Leadership Overland Park and Kansas City Tomorrow Leadership programs.

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Connecting the Dots: Commercial client forum

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You’ve probably attended industry or community events with time set aside for networking. But, have you ever met at your company’s bank for an event dedicated solely to networking and sharing ideas? Earlier this year, UMB’s commercial banking team brought together a group of our clients to share ideas and perspectives about everything from succession planning to product evolution and other leadership topics. We sat down with Brian Beaird, senior vice president in UMB’s Commercial Banking department, to discuss this informative client forum.

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What was your goal with the forum?

We wanted to bring in a handful of our clients so they could discuss leadership topics and expand their business networks. The goal was to create meaningful opportunities to develop relationships beyond traditional commercial banking interactions. We wanted to connect our clients to others like them so they could discuss real-life challenges and take away tangible ideas to consider for their businesses.

Who did you invite to this event?

We invited senior leadership from ten middle market clients across our eight-state footprint. The clients represented various industries, from construction to non-profits. They also represented various types of leadership within the company. Three of the businesses are family run, ranging from first to third generation leadership.

Specifically, what did the attendees discuss?

In addition to the general leadership topics, we utilized articles from the Harvard Business Review to guide our discussion. The articles created a framework for facilitated discussion that created unique perspectives based on the various styles of leadership in the room and industry-specific scenarios that enabled group members to think differently about their business.

What surprised you about their conversations?

The clients who attended provided a unique perspective that helps us to better understand how various industries are performing and how they are projected to perform. Additionally, it was interesting to watch the attendees make connections to similar issues they’ve experienced, even if they were in different industries. For example, one attendee was concerned with an aspect of his company’s succession plan. Another attendee had a very similar experience in his company and the two were able to talk after the forum and exchange ideas on how to help solve the problem.

What was the outcome of these meetings?

The companies we bring in for these forums are geographically separated, but they have begun to do business together and leverage the experiences of the group as an information source for decision-making. Two attendees have actually developed a business partnership as a direct result of this meeting.

Having done two of these forums since last fall, we continue to follow up with the attendees to ensure the conversation continues. In fact, one member requested that we help lead a strategic off-site meeting for their company.

The most important takeaway we’ve seen from these meetings is the company leaders have realized it’s important for them to branch outside of their networks like this on a regular basis. Communicating with other companies outside the standard, day-to-day business interactions can help you create partnerships you may never have developed otherwise. You may even be able to learn from the experiences of other companies and apply them to your own.


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Mr. Beaird is a senior vice president in UMB’s Commercial Banking department. He is responsible for commercial banking strategy, which focuses on the development of growth through our people and various markets. He joined UMB in 2009 and has 14 years of experience in the financial services industry. He earned an MBA and a master’s degree in human resources from Webster University in Kansas City, MO. Mr. Beaird is also the co-founder of the Kids to Kings youth basketball organization.

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